Ever since the debate over the destruction of Ogunpa Dam Forest Reserve commenced, Governor Seyi Makinde has made different efforts at bending the conversation. He has even alleged us of antagonising the decision of the government to convert the forest to a housing estate in order for us to “get funds from the United Nations as climate change activists”. That is the most ridiculous and most embarrassing statement Governor of a State could make.
Meanwhile, Governor Makinde had declared during a Tree-Planting campaign to commemorate his second year in office in 2021 at the Head of Service building, Secretariat, Ìbàdàn that; “when you give a contract to people or you sign a deal with them and say, look, we want to make an Estate here (he was making reference to Ogunpa Dam Forest Reserve), the first thing they do is to clear everything including the vegetation. “So, we now have a situation whereby the weather system is unpredictable. Sometimes, when we think we should have fairly decent cool weather, it could be hot. It is an indication of how we have mismanaged our environment.”
“Unfortunately, all of us here and even the people in the heart of the city, we share the environment. It does not know a big man or a small person. So, this effort is not elitist at all. It is an effort that, if well-promoted, will definitely have an impact on the kind of environment we are going to hand over to the upcoming generation.”
In that remark, he was talking in support of climate change. Will it be fair on the part of the Governor to say he made that statement with the intention of getting some funds from the UN for climate change advocacy? What changed?
However, in corroborating the Governor’s 2021 claim, I must state that the destruction of a forest constitutes a major environmental problem since forest play a major role in environmental conservation and amelioration of environmental hazards like wind, soil erosion, flooding, earth warming siltation of water bodies, underground hydrological dis-equilibrium and various forms of pollution. Unfortunately, in the space of 3 years since the Governor made that quoted statement, a government which holds forest in trust for society has inadvertently become the protagonist of urban deforestation by placing higher priorities on other land uses over forestry.
I want to once again refresh the memory of the Governor by charging him to check the trend in forest destruction and its consequences in Ìbàdàn metropolis. We still remember how the construction of Premier Hotel on a section of the Ogunpa Dam Forest Reserve caused a large-scale erosion and flooding of Ogunpa river. It used to be a provider of drinkable water for the citizens. We also remember how the construction of the cultural centre caused the destruction of Agodi zoological and botanical gardens and fishponds and massive flooding, which resulted in 363 deaths. The massive erosion which culminated as a result of the construction of a proposed 5-star hotel on the University of Ìbàdàn teak plantations is also there. The massive flooding and erosion at Challenge in response to scoutcamp shopping complex is there too. History is there to guide us, and we must never fail to learn from it.
By converting that forest reserve to a housing estate, Governor Seyi Makinde is not just waging war against conservation and sustainability, he is opening Ìbàdàn up for a flood which will be more disastrous than what we had in 1980. It then becomes imperative for us as citizens to engage him and probe his interest which is what we have been doing.
The Governor must know that we are not advocating for the sustainability of the forest reserve because of hatred for him or for some pecuniary motivation, we are simply doing it for the love of the environment and to ensure that a repetition of the 1980 Ogunpa flood does not occur.
Kazeem Olalekan Israel (GANI)